Traffic jams, shower mold, and that one regular who always gives you the side-eye when you use the good treadmill—sometimes a gym membership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even if your location has the nicest facilities around, though, you just can’t beat the convenience of working out from home.
Still, even a bare-bones home gym will cost you. Experts say you can expect to spend around $1,500 for equipment and basics like mats and free weights. If you’re already on a budget, or just like to spend your money on other essentials (hello, spa retreat!) then $1,500 can seem like a lot to drop just to keep fit. Especially when you realize how much of your gym room equipment can be traded for a few items you probably already have in your home.
Squats Give You Plenty of Ways to Work Out—And Let You Feel the Burn Personal trainers should really start a special holiday in honor of squats. The standard squat challenges your back, legs, and buttocks, but this classic exercise has all kinds of variations that can be used to target different muscle groups or step up the difficulty. For instance, you can add a little cardio to your workout using jump squats, where you push up into a leap from the squat position. Or up the intensity with pistol squats, a one-legged variation that challenges your balance and flexibility. Or grab some free weights and turn them into dumbbell squats, which bring a whole new muscle group—your arms—into the mix. There are literally scores of ways to do them, so I guarantee you won’t miss the variety of machines at the gym.
Making Your Own Free Weights “Okay,” I hear you saying, “but what if I don’t have any dumbbells at home.” While you can get a pretty good basic arm workout in with pushup variations and chair dips, if you want to be sure to hit all the muscles in the arms, free weights are the only way to go. Any heavy object can be turned into a weight—books, canned goods, jugs of water, you name it. But if you can get ahold of some scrap pieces of PVC pipe, you can DIY a set of more-professional looking weights. Just fill the pipes with sand and cap each end. Want more weight? Cut the pipe longer. And there you have it—your own set of free weights for less than $10.
Swap Bungee Cords for Resistance Bands Resistance bands are a budget fitness enthusiast’s best friend. They’re flexible, help you hit ton of different parts of your body, and don’t make your muscles bulky the way heavy weights do. Plus, if your gym room has to do double duty as a bedroom or living room, they’re easy to put away, too. Anchor one end of a run-of-the-mill bungee cord with your foot, and use it to turn out a whole host of different exercises: bicep curls, hammer curls, and standing hamstring curls are all great ideas. With all the money you save, you’ll be able to afford that new strappy number to show off your freshly toned arms!
Take Advantage of the Stairs Does your home or apartment have stairs? Then guess what—you have an intense calorie-burning workout waiting for you, right outside your door. Just walking up the stairs for 10 minutes burns around 100 calories—almost double that, if you run. It’s a great exercise for when you’re really short on time. Just be careful, and use the hand railing if you feel like you need it at first.
Roll Out Your Abs with a Rolling Pin Ab rolling workouts can be a powerful way to get that six-pack, without the danger of harming your neck that you have with sit ups. But $40 is a lot to spend on equipment that only targets one muscle group! Plus, you probably have something in your kitchen right now that you can use as a makeshift ab roller: a humble rolling pin. Hold the rolling pin with both hands, and, while kneeling, roll it forward—just like this video indicates. As a bonus, these exercises will improve your core stability, which will help you work harder and go deeper when you do your squats. Hey, now that you’re busy getting fit, what else were you going to do with that rolling pin?
Use Kitchen Shelf Liner as an Alternate Mat Now that yoga, pilates, and other mat-centric exercise programs have gained a real following, there’s no shortage of businesses out there hoping to make a quick buck on their popularity. That means you could easily be looking at spending $90 or more for a glorified piece of foam. I like a fancy yoga mat as much as the next person, but sometimes that’s just not in the cards, especially if you burn through yoga mats (or misplace them!) like I do. A simple, affordable alternative is to use springy shelf liner from a home improvement store. It costs about $10 for an eight-foot roll—you’re not going to find a deal like that at a fancy yoga store!
A whole-body workout for less than $20? With that kind of fitness, you’ll never have to go back to the gym again if you don’t want to. Goodbye, communal changing room!